When we talk about sustainability, we are confronted with an immense catalogue of great ideas and multidisciplinary initiatives. And sometimes, there are things that go unnoticed and yet harbour unsuspected possibilities in terms of respect for our environment.
This is the case of the humble, insignificant (and very Spanish) olive pit, which has become a unique benchmark of the circular economy. A biosustainable resource from which surprising non-invasive industrial projects are being born, and even gastronomic proposals.
The olive stone, once the common olive waste, is now a consumer product of general interest. According to some estimates by the Ministry of Agriculture, around half a million tonnes of table olives and 1.3 tonnes of olives for oil production are harvested each year in our country.
These are some examples of its usefulness and projection.
Source of energy
Olive pits are a magnificent source of fuel thanks to their fats, low humidity and calorific capacity. Ideal for biomass-fired boilers and heating cookers, olive pits have gone from being a waste product to an energy source that emits much less CO2 than natural gas or diesel and is up to 70% more efficient.
It also aids restful sleep, as it has been successfully tested in pillow stuffing, and even to prevent muscular aches and pains in the form of thermal bags that apply clean heat.
Pest control and decontamination
One of the peculiarities of olive pits is that they are highly resistant to fungi and bacteria. Moreover, its absorption capacity is an effective tool for the decontamination of wastewater (through a process called biosorption). The University of Granada was a pioneer in this technique, which managed to use the pits in up to nine cycles of decontamination of waste discharged into water.
Technicians from the Escuela Técnica Superior de Edificación have designed a system to carbonise olive pits and use them in the construction of buildings. We are talking about a light and flexible material that fits like a glove to the demanding technical standards of construction, without forgetting that it is also a magnificent acoustic and thermal insulator.
Pigmentation of textiles
Automotive brands already use olive pit pigments to dye the upholstery of their vehicles, avoiding the generation of toxic waste in the manufacture of dyes, as well as obtaining a biodegradable pigment.
A small farm in the Sierra Morena region of Jaén has won the prize for the best cheese in the world. It is a handmade, 100% organic product that has the peculiarity of using olive pits in the final maturing process.
A humble business that has gone round the world. Experiments are also being carried out in the extraction of seeds from the olive stone to make flour, with a high fibre and omega-3 content.
This idea of using olive pits in gastronomy has already crossed the mind of Ángel León, known as El Chef del Mar, who has been using olive pits in his kitchens since 2008 to smoke his products.
There is less and less food waste that cannot be used. And the olive pit is a striking example of how something so simple can be turned into a product with extraordinary possibilities for improving people's lives.
Source: CaixaBank blog